And the winner is…


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The phrase echoed through the gym at the Woodland Park Boys and Girls Club on Friday to announce results for the 2013 Alaska Youth of the Year. Each year, teens from Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Alaska come together to share stories about their Boys and Girls Club experience with other teens, state and local leaders, and Club staff. Two teens are selected to represent Alaska in a regional event held in California in the spring, with a national event to follow. The Alaska Youth of the Year Finalists receive a college savings bond sponsored by the University of Alaska College Savings Plan, Boys and Girls Clubs of Alaska, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula and Tupperware.

Boys and Girls Clubs Alaska, Eagle River Lions Club, Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, Elks Lodge #2682, VFW Post 9785, Mountain View Lions and Benton Bay Lions supported this spectacular event. These organizations have reached beyond the youth in their own neighborhoods and towns, to support character and leadership development through the Boys and Girls Clubs movement.

Several distinguished guests were in attendance, including the panel of judges: Kandy Kizis, retired military veteran and David Ramseur, Chief of Staff for Senator Mark Begich. Honorary guests included General Mike Bridges, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner William Streur, Deputy Commissioner Pierre, Greer Gehler with the Office of Senator Begich, Nancy Dahlstrom, Representative Gabrielle LeDouox, Lions District Governor Ester West, Lions Zone Chair 6 Karen Burns, Commander VFW Post 9785, and William Yudiskas.

The Youth of Year Finalists were waiting in anticipation for the results to be announced. Master of ceremony Cheri Gillian handed the microphone to Commissioner Streur who revealed (with much enthusiasm) Courtney Stroh of Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula as the traditional Club winner. Immediately the audience rose cheering for her earned accomplishment. Following Courtney’s brief acceptance speech, General Mike Bridges announced the Military winner, Gage Dabin, of JBER. His acceptance speech was less formal as he incorporated some light-hearted humor and thanked his parents and the staff for their dedication to the Youth Services Center.

After the event ended the crowd started to dissipate as the Lions, Elks and the VFW Commander lingered on to shake hands and congratulate the finalists. The mission statements for all of these nonprofits have one focus in common, serving the community and volunteering to make our community the best it can be and in this case by strengthening the confidence in the committed Boys and Girls Clubs Youth of the Year 2013.

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